In the wake of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, it’s no secret that hospitals and healthcare systems are running into an issue of space. An increasing number of patients has forced hospitals to devise strategies on how to approach space use, and improve the ways they care for patients affected by the coronavirus.
In unprecedented times like these, here’s how healthcare organizations can rely on a combination of technology and space utilization best practices — not only to better manage facilities-related challenges, but also to safeguard the lives of patients within their facilities.
Hospital Space Management and the Coronavirus: An Inside Look
Before we get to space management technology, let’s take a look at the importance of air flow and pressure within a healthcare environment (which will play a big part in space utilization measures). “Negative” pressure isolation rooms, when used effectively, can help prevent the spread of infectious contaminants and maintain sterility in other spaces.
What is a negative pressure isolation room?
“Negative pressure” rooms are all about airflow. A room with negative pressure will cause air to flow into it from the higher-pressured areas around it. The main goal of a negative pressure room is to contain contagions within a single room and prevent illness from spreading to other areas of the hospital. Containing pathogens to a single room can reduce the likelihood of spreading contamination to other patients, staff or sterile equipment. Negative pressure isolation rooms are commonly used for patients with airborne infections (like COVID-19).
Air Pressure Management: Easier Said than Done
Isolation rooms that are not properly pressurized can cause airborne contaminants to escape — putting the health (and potentially the lives) of patients, staff, and visitors at risk. However, maintaining properly-pressurized rooms is easier said than done. Hospitals must plan ahead to ensure that the correct amount of rooms are pressurized (as typically, only a percentage of ICU rooms contain negative pressure). They also must have a reliable way to measure pressure gauges and report their findings, as part of regular inspection rounds.
Using Technology to Better Manage COVID-19 Units
The coronavirus pandemic has forced some hospitals to convert entire wards to negative pressure areas to control the spread of the virus. However, this does not come without its challenges. Negative pressure rooms cost additional money, require additional inspections and pressure checks, and rely on a floor’s HVAC duct systems to accommodate special air pressures within fixed rooms.
Did you know? Healthcare institutions MUST do diligent research before turning any given ward into a negative pressure ward. The ward’s air handling unit must be sized correctly to handle operating at a higher velocity than what it was designed for. Running equipment that’s unfit to convert an entire ward to negative pressure can put your equipment at a much higher risk for failure.
Space Management Software is the Solution
It’s apparent that in times like these, hospitals must rapidly assess their infrastructure to be able to come up with multiple solutions amid the potentially large-scale spread of COVID-19. They also must rapidly assess potential sites — such as university dormitories or hospitality buildings — that could serve as overflow, triage or intake. They are faced with the question of “If we run out of beds, how do we utilize the space around us to create more patient rooms?”
However, before they begin, they must assess the infrastructure of a building to make sure that it is fit to serve patients’ needs. But how, exactly, can they assess these buildings? What equipment will they need to bring in? Do they need to make changes to the building’s entrance or lobby area to accommodate pre-screenings?
As we can see, space mapping and utilization, as well as adaptive space re-use, play key roles in running a successful healthcare facility during a crisis. Space management solutions can not only help your organization track the spaces it has, but also re-allocate spaces to better serve the needs of patients. The space data gathered can help your organization minimize risk to patients and physical infrastructure. Some wards and hospital areas might need to be used in different ways because of the crisis — and a building infrastructure software that helps you manage your spaces can help you get there.
How Software Helps Hospitals Make Data-Driven Decisions
Building infrastructure management software can help healthcare organizations map out what-if situations and plan for space usage in widespread pandemic situations. Some software solutions can even associate equipment with your building’s infrastructure behind those what-if scenarios.
Data can even help your organization avoid making costly (or even life threatening) decisions that could lead to unexpected emergencies.
For example, let’s say a doctor says “Let’s make this ward into a negative pressure ward to best treat our patients.” However, infrastructure data can reveal that the floor in question has an undersized or very old air handling unit. In this situation, this is the last ward you’d want to use. Another floor may be less ideal, but at least it has the physical equipment (like an oversized air handling unit) to manage negative pressure. This way, the negative pressure ward is ventilated as well as possible and equipment risk-of-failure is reduced.
Why Building Management Data Matters in a Hospital
It’s all about making those smart decisions in a time like this. The last thing a hospital needs right now is to make the wrong decision, have an air handler fail, and have positive pressure in a ward where people are sick with a contagion. Making decisions that are backed by building management data can help you avoid emergencies (and likely a few choice words). The right space management tools and building management software solutions can help your organization ensure that the maximum number of COVID-19 beds can be accommodated within your given facility.
AkitaBox is Here to Help
Healthcare organizations have always faced the challenge of adapting their facilities to evolve with the ever-changing needs of patients, medical services, technology and healthcare delivery models. But with the recent outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19), it’s more important than ever for healthcare organizations to think outside of the box and use space management best practices wisely to save lives.
AkitaBox's mission is to help healthcare institutions make data-driven decisions about their facilities and infrastructure to help them make smart decisions to improve quality of care.
Our space management tools are designed to help organizations identify the maximum number of beds that can be made available, especially during (and after) the COVID-19 crisis.
AkitaBox offers cutting-edge tools and resources to allow healthcare institutions to track critical pieces of equipment, all within a single software that serves as a reliable source of truth.
Together, we hope to help your healthcare organization feel empowered to make facility-related decisions that will improve quality of care and help protect the lives of thousands. If your organization is in need of assistance, AkitaBox is here to help. Please contact us at (608) 729-9191 or email us as CV19@akitabox.com, or visit akitabox.com/covid19 for more information, and we will do what we can to help your organization persevere through this difficult time.